An English teacher at a public school in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, is fighting for her life after a motorcycle hit her while she was volunteering at an orphanage in India.
Karabeth Burton is recovering from emergency surgery but her recovery is far from certain and she is unable to pay all the medical bills. Now her friends are rallying round to raise money to support her.
Burton and her friend Sunil Mahtani had been spending their winter break near Mumbai when the accident happened Thursday.
According to Mahtani, who was born in India and visits often, they had big plans for the trip.
“We were going to Mumbai, we were going to Badlapur which is this town outside of Mumbai to volunteer at an orphanage with children, and then we were going to go to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and we were planning on seeing the Taj Mahal by sunset,” said Mahtani.
“It was just going to be an incredible, wonderful Indian holiday, having all the great food and seeing all the great sights and taking pictures and making videos.”
But the accident cut this vacation short soon after they left the orphanage. Walking out of a shop after buying supplies for the trip back to Mumbai, Burton was hit by a bike that seemingly came out of nowhere.
“I was only about two or three steps in front of her and all of a sudden I heard this really loud sound.
“It sounded like a jet airplane, but I know now that it was a motorcycle, and it was coming full speed ahead and I guess he just never saw her and just hit her head on,” said Mahtani.
“It was an absolute nightmare. When I turned round to see what that huge sound was it was Karabeth right behind me, and she was tremendously bleeding from her head and her leg and her arm and it was just ... she was on the ground and it was a nightmare.”
Burton was rushed by taxi to a local hospital and transferred by ambulance to a hospital in Mumbai, where she is currently recovering from surgery.
Her recovery had been going well until Saturday night, when she began to complain of headaches and stopped responding the next day. She was given emergency surgery to relieve swelling of the brain Sunday.
“The surgery the doctors said it went well, there were no complications, but they have absolutely no idea if her swelling is going to go back to normal,“ said Mahtani. “We’re just praying for that.”
Mahtani said it would be at least three days before Burton would be able to speak, which was adding to the distress.
“I was heartbroken at the accident and I was absolutely devastated that she had this but it had been manageable until yesterday,” he said.
The additional surgery has also added to the medical costs. Mahtani said that they had been reasonably confident of covering the bills before but this had made things much more difficult.
“We estimated that the bills could be up to $15,000 but unfortunately as of yesterday the bills could be double that,” he said. “So I’m very disappointed because the situation has quickly gone out of her control.”
Mahtani explained that Burton’s family had provided some funds, but were not able to provide enough to cover the medical costs or go to India.
Mahtani, who is staying with family, says he has been given access to her finances. With this and donations from his family and their friends in Korea and elsewhere, they had scraped together a significant amount, but he said they would need a lot more to pay the entire bill.
The family of the rider has visited Burton in hospital, but Mahtani says they are poor and do not appear to be in a position to help beyond a fraction of the cost.
“I talked to Karabeth about this and she feels, very beautifully, that it was just a 15-year-old boy and it was a terrible mistake that he made, so she didn’t feel that she was interested in doing any kind of criminal or juvenile criminal prosecution for this,” he said.
He added that they did want help from the family of the rider, but the family has said it can only provide $2,000.
“I’ve asked around and a lot of people have told me that $2,000 is an awful lot of money for a family like that and that they seem to be doing whatever they can do,” said Mahtani.
Adding to Mahtani’s stress, he says he feels he may lose his job at his school if he does not return to Korea soon. While he wishes his school was more understanding, he is currently trying to arrange for people to take care of the situation to allow him to return.
He said he was also worried that Burton’s absence could cost her her job, although he was sure she would be supported by her friends in any case.
He said that Burton is an extremely helpful, selfless person.
“She’s very humble and she doesn’t (usually) like anybody doing anything for her or going out of their way for her,” he said.
“She’s very overwhelmed by the support she’s been given. She often said to me, ‘I didn’t know so many people cared.’”
More information and updates are posted on the “Fundraiser for Karabeth Burton” Facebook page.
Donations can be sent to Nonghyup account No. 3020-498-564-541, which is in Burton’s name.
By Paul Kerry (email@example.com)